Florence Denmark

1980 APA President

Former APA President Florence DenmarkFlorence Levin Denmark was born in Philadelphia in 1931 into a large extended family. Her father was an attorney and her mother a musician. She has recounted that she shares many of her father’s aptitudes and interests, while it was her mother who was a powerful force for achievement and accomplishment in Florence’s life. Florence was a double honors major (history, psychology) as an undergraduate at the College of Women at the University of Pennsylvania. Although she was accepted into the graduate psychology program at Duke University, her marriage to her first husband, a dental student at Penn, led her to remain at Penn for her graduate work. There she continued the research begun on women’s leadership. After earning her doctoral degree in 1958, Florence moved with her husband to New York City. Their three children were born there. Florence devoted her time to being a mother, while teaching part-time. At Queen’s College, Mary Reuder became a mentor who facilitated her involvement and development as a teacher. In 1964, after six years post-doctoral experience, Florence obtained a faculty position as Instructor at Hunter College in the Bronx (now Lehman College). At both Queens and Hunter, Florence experienced the discrimination against women that was typical in academia at the time: lower pay and lower rank. Nevertheless, Florence remained at Hunter where she continued her research on the psychology of women and sex roles.

Her hard work and accomplishment led to her being named to a distinguished professorship as Thomas Hunter Professor of the Social Sciences in 1984. At Hunter, Florence met her other major mentor, Virginia Staudt Sexton. Sexton mentored Florence through all the political ropes of how to be an effective leader in organizations. Out of this mentoring experience, Florence became a leader on the state, national, and international levels, leadership that she maintains to this day. She has been President of the New York State Psychological Association, the American Psychological Association, Division 35 of the APA, and the International Council of Psychologists. Her research on women produced a number of significant publications, including the Hunter College Women’s Studies Collective, which published the seminal, Women’s Choices, Women’s Realties (1983), now in its second edition.

Today, Florence Denmark remains among the leaders of psychology internationally. Her work with the United Nations on aging issues keeps her involved in being a voice for women and the elderly around the world.

Further Reading

Denmark, F. L. (1988). Florence L. Denmark. In A. N. O’Connell & N. F. Russo (Eds.), Models of achievement: Reflections of eminent women in psychology, vol, 2 (pp. 281-293). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Paludi, M. A. & Russo, N. F. (1990). Florence L. Denmark (1931- ). In A. N. O’Connell & N. F. Russo (Eds.), Women in psychology: A bio-bibliographic resource (pp. 75-87). New York: Greenwood Press.